The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Crossing Wyoming

Sunday, May 29th, 2011 in Wyoming
Crossing Wyoming 1

I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. I thought crossing Wyoming would be a cinch. Just a bit of straight-line driving. What I didn’t count on were the blinding skies, the car-jerking winds and the absolute, sheer, awesome hugeness of the place. I just didn’t get how vast Wyoming is until I tried to drive from Cheyenne to Moran. I thought we’d be there by lunchtime. I also thought it was springtime. Turns out, I was wrong on both counts.

Wyoming landscape

Wyoming isn’t just big, it’s big and empty. I have a copy of the National Geographic Road Atlas, Adventure Edition that I keep in my car. It’s packed with superb maps and tons of facts. Facts like this: the population of Wyoming totals 563,626 people. That’s a shockingly small tally, especially to an upper midwesterner like myself. There are 712,453 people in my home county alone. Not surprisingly, Wyoming holds the distinction of being the least populated state in the union. That fact started to look inherently obvious to me somewhere just northwest of Laramie.

Wyoming landscape

I guess, amid all the crazy, work-hazy, rushing around that shrouded our departure, I didn’t stop to think about how much driving we faced on this vacation. I didn’t pause to contemplate the number of miles that stretch westward from the shores of Lake Michigan to the bulging belly of the Yellowstone Caldera.

That isn’t to say that I was negligent or niave in planning the trip. I had carefully calculated the mileage for the entire journey. I had constructed an itinerary that seemed sensible. But I just didn’t figure on how tired I would be at the beginning of the journey.

The long hours in the car over the past two days have been difficult because they’ve added layers of stress to an already thick foundation of chronic job-borne anxiety. It’s a shame to live life in the shadows of stress. Today, it meant that my initial memories of the drive from Cheyenne to Moran were dull and narrow. I spent most of the drive concerned about getting to the hotel on time, worried that the snowstorm that was forecast to hit the Teton Range this afternoon would prevent us from getting into the park.

Wyoming landscape

But now—as I sit in our room at Jackson Lake Lodge browsing the random photos I snapped during today’s drive—I realize the immense beauty of Wyoming. I realize that Wyoming is a magnificent state, one that you should never rush across (no sense trying, you can’t).

My goal for these next few days is to forget my worries, relax and open my eyes to the wonderful things that are right in front of me. Or out the passenger-side window:

Wyoming landscape
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Assortment

The Rains
The Rains
Woke up early to thunderstorms that were already building. The sky broke into downpours that lasted a good hour or so and then stopped, leaving a gray sky to linger the rest of the day.
South Saint Vrain Canyon
South Saint Vrain Canyon
On my recent trips up to Rocky Mountain National Park, I’ve opted to take a route that follows Colorado Highway 7, also known as the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway.
Gurnard’s Head
Gurnard's Head
I don’t normally get all weak at the knees when hiking along the edge of a steep drop-off. But pretty much all the high-wire hiking I’ve done in the past was relegated to the mountains, where steep slopes offer downcast views of distant rock and miniature trees. Here, the cliff bottoms out in a chaos of churning seas.